Feds rule lynx won't be added
to endangered list
By Buddy Smith
The Ravalli Republic
The Canada lynx remains threatened, but the forest cat
isn't endangered, the federal government has concluded.
Late last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined
the seldom-seen species, which prefers northern forests
such as those in western Montana and elsewhere, including
Idaho, the Great Lakes area and the Pacific Northwest,
does not warrant the upgraded federal protection.
The species was listed as threatened under the Endangered
Species Act in March 2000, and the federal government
was under court order to re-evaluate lynx status.
"The judge told us basically to reconsider our findings,"
said Lori Nordstrom with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lynx are also the subject of a separate effort to revise
more than 20 federal land-use plans, including the Bitterroot
National Forest's, to provide protections for the species.
Based on known threats to lynx and their forest habitat,
the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the cat
isn't endangered because there is no evidence to show
that the contiguous United States population is in danger
of extinction throughout all or a significant part of
its range, the agency said.
While studies found areas of concern where officials
thought lynx might no longer naturally occur, such as
New York and Colorado, according to Nordstrom, overall
the species is not in danger of becoming extinct.
"We know that in Washington, Montana, Maine and
Minnesota there are reproducing populations and that those
areas historically have always been the core range of
the lynx," Nordstrom said. "And in no way were
they likely to become extinct."
"Extinct means gone," she said.
But the national conservation group Defenders of Wildlife
and other organizations had filed suit, saying the 2000
listing of the lynx as threatened, rather than endangered,
was "arbitrary and capricious," according to
the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The groups challenged the agency's finding regarding
threats to the species, identification of a single distinct
population segment (a portion of a species' or subspecies'
population or range) and failure to designate critical
habitat for the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service
A little bigger than a bobcat, the tufted-eared, big-pawed
carnivore can have a home range as vast as 30 to 50 square
miles, Nordstrom said.
She said lynx numbers are naturally lower than some other
species and are difficult to determine. Biologists have
surveyed their snow tracks in the southern Bitterroot
and other areas.
Lynx dwell in moist, northern forests and high-elevation
habitat occupied by the species' primary food source,
the snowshoe hare. Its range includes Montana, New Hampshire,
Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, mostly on federal
Meanwhile, a primary reason for listing the lynx as threatened
three years ago was a lack of guidance for conserving
the species in federal land-use plans, according to Nordstrom.
Federal agencies have since written a conservation agreement
for lynx and are currently operating under those guidelines,
The U.S. Forest Service and the BLM also intend to amend
or revise land-use plans to include long-term lynx protections.
A few years ago, Hamilton and other Montana towns hosted
meetings on the proposed revisions. A draft environmental
impact statement is due out this summer, officials have
"I think they're on the verge of issuing a draft
EIS," Nordstrom said.